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This weekend's column: Land's value is not about it's 'beauty' ...

Published August 17, 2012 6:00 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Above: A modern, Aussie, version of "I've got a little list."

Land's value is not about its 'beauty' - By George Pyle | The Salt Lake Tribune

"Magnificent desolation." — Col. Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin, on the moon, July 20, 1969

To hear Utah Congressman Rob Bishop tell it, the decisions to be made about the future of the mostly wild and mostly government-owned lands throughout the American West are best made in terms of what's pretty.

How very "Hunger Games" of him.

In a visit with The Salt Lake Tribune Editorial Board the other day, Bishop patiently explained how he hopes to peel some Eastern Establishment members of Congress away from the idea that large portions of the West need to be preserved, in wild or near-wild conditions, just by showing them some pictures.

He offers a side-by-side comparison. One photo is of a verdant, tree-rich section of forest, which Bishop accurately describes as the popular image of a national park.

The other is a shot of a dry, scrubby patch of what the congressman calls, in a contemptuous tone, "Sagebrush land." It is, he suggests, a vista that would actually be aesthetically improved by the addition of a drilling rig or two.

Bishop explained how he is making progress with some of his colleagues by asking them whether they really want to spend all that tax money, mostly through the Bureau of Land Management, to preserve such ugly scrub country. It's the logic of Gilbert and Sullivan's Lord High Executioner: "They'd none of 'em be missed."

Bishop used to teach civics, so when he describes how ideas are presented to Congress and how decisions are made, attention must be paid.

But he clearly wasn't qualified to teach biology. If he were, he'd know that the ecological value of any expanse of land can never be measured by its beauty. [Read the rest ...]